Staying safe in the heat

With summer heat in full swing, and fewer air conditioned public spaces open, due to COVID-19, it’s important to know the risks of heat-related illness.

The NWHU monitors temperatures throughout the summer and will issue a heat alert if the weather is greater than 29oC, or if the humidex is greater than 36 for two or more consecutive days. To keep yourself, and your family, friends and neighbours safe during high heat, the NWHU provides the following information.

People at increased risk of heat-related illness

Everyone is at risk of heat illnesses from extreme heat or humidity, but the risk is greater for:

  • Older adults and seniors
  • Infants and children
  • People with chronic illnesses, such as breathing difficulties, asthma, heart conditions, or psychiatric illnesses
  • People who work in the heat
  • People who exercise in the heat
  • People who take certain medications (check with doctor)
  • People who are homeless
  • People who live alone

How to avoid heat-related illness

You can avoid heat-related illnesses this summer by:

  • Checking the Environment Canada weather forecast for the region before going outside.
  • Planning ahead to reorganize activities (i.e. sporting events, recess) if it is too hot.
  • Drinking cool liquids, especially water, before you feel thirsty to decrease your risk of dehydration. Avoid drinks that are high in sugar, caffeine, or alcohol as they can increase the amount of water lost by your body.
  • Seeking shade and avoiding sun exposure. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, wear clothing that covers your skin, and using an umbrella for shade.
  • Wearing loose-fitting, light coloured clothing made of breathable fabric
  • Taking a break from the heat by going to a cooler place. Spend a few hours in an air conditioned building, public pool, or taking a swim in the lake.
  • Taking cool showers or baths until you feel refreshed.
  • Blocking out the sun from your house by closing curtains or blinds during the day.
  • Avoiding doing a lot of exercise or hard work.
  • Preparing meals that do not need to be cooked in your oven.
  • Never leaving people or pets in your care inside a parked car or in direct sunlight.
  • Visiting or checking on neighbours, friends or family members who might be at greater risk, to make sure they are cool and hydrated.
  • Checking with doctor or pharmacist if any of the medications you are taking increase health risk in heat or sun.

Heat related illnesses

Heat related illnesses include dehydration, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps (muscle cramps), heat edema (swelling of hands, feet, and ankles), and heat rash.

Signs and symptoms of heat illness include:

  • Weakness
  • Fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Extreme thirst
  • Decreased urination with dark yellow urine
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat

If someone is showing signs of a heat-related illness, you can help them by:

  • Calling for medical help
  • Removing excess clothing from the person
  • Applying cold water to large areas of skin or clothing
  • Moving them to a cooler, shaded location
  • Giving them sips of cool water (not ice water)
  • Fanning the person if possible

Any heat-related illness is a medical emergency.

Call 911 immediately if you are caring for someone who has been exposed to heat or humidity and is showing any of the above signs and symptoms.